Private school pupils are more likely to have healthy habits by the time they reach their early forties than their peers at comprehensive schools, a new study has found.
Researchers from the UCL Institute of Education found that 42-year-olds who attended private school watched less television and ate fewer takeaway meals than 42-year-olds who were state-educated. They also had lower body-mass index.
There was a similar difference in healthy habits between students who attended Russell Group universities and those who graduated from less prestigious universities.
The academics analysed information from more than 8,400 men and women born in a single week in 1970. They looked at where participants went to school, and also at their health aged 42.
The links between a private education and healthy-living habits remained even when socioeconomic background, childhood health and cognitive ability were taken into account, as well as whether or not participants attended university.
Developing healthy habits
David Bann, the study’s lead author, said that these findings may be attributable to the fact that private schools have more money to invest into extracurricular activities than state schools do. “This may help pupils develop healthy habits that benefit them in later life,” he said.
Private education is also linked to higher adult earnings, he said. This extra money may be used to cover the cost of a healthy diet and exercise.
“Given continued concerns about school funding and the selling off of state-school playing fields, our research suggests that there might be long-term health benefits of improving recreational as well as academic opportunities for pupils,” he said.
“To reduce health inequalities among future generations, policymakers will likely need to address inequalities in our education system.”
"Does an elite education benefit health? Findings from the 1970 British Cohort Study" is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.